Irish writer Claire Kilroy’s novel is about emotions rather than events.
It is set in the recession hit Dublin of the 1980s and tells the story of five students who are thrown together in the intense atmosphere of a creative-writing workshop.
This disparate group are united in their bid to win the approval of their tutor and idol, the appalling literary genius Patrick Glynn.
Glynn is a masterpiece of characterisation on Kilroy’s part. She has created a truly compelling character who transcends the stereotype of the drinker and the tormented artist.
A dysfunctional alcoholic, Glynn is engaged in a myriad of battles with his real and imagined demons.
His students, initially awed by their sense of being in the presence of Glynn’s troubled genius, soon find themselves in the midst of a dangerous combination of rivalry, hero worship and disillusionment.
While the group’s dramas are played out in pubs and classrooms, this is not just a literary and academic novel. The cloistered walls of Trinity College do not protect the characters from the dark reality of Dublin at the time.
In the tragic figure of the drug dealer Giz, we see how poverty and casual violence come crashing into their lives.
All Names Have Been Changed recreates a skyline that had yet to be invaded by cranes, where heroin infected the city like a deadly virus and where poverty and despair exiled and strangled the promise and creativity of a generation.
If it had come out just two years ago this would have just been a reminder of a previous, darker era.
But as the clouds of recession cast their shadow over Dublin, Kilroy’s story seems not only timely, but very real.
All Names Have Been Changed
by Claire Kilroy
Faber and Faber, £12.99